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House Republicans Pass 2 More Abortion Bills: Heartbeat Ban, Punishment For Doctors

Serge Melki

Republican state lawmakers on Tuesday continued their attempts to implement sweeping new restrictions on abortion.

House Bill 1102 would add providing an abortion to a list of "unprofessional conduct" for doctors and require their license be suspended for at least one year. The bill allows an exception for abortions to save a mother’s life or prevent "irreversible physical impairment."

Gloria Pedro with Planned Parenthood Great Plains noted GOP lawmakers passed the bill the day after International Women’s Day.

"HB1102 is just another politically motivated attempt by opponents of abortion to attack providers and intervene in personal and private decisions by playing politics with women’s health. We have to remember, there can be no gender equity without equal access to health care," Pedro said.

Democratic lawmakers said courts will likely strike down the bill. Rep. John Waldron (D-Tulsa) asked the author, Rep. Jim Olsen (R-Roland) if that’s the plan with HB1102.

"Is it your intention to run a bill, get a law passed, that will challenge and overturn Roe v. Wade?" Waldron said.

"That’s not the specific aim of this bill, but it may end up going all the way there. And hopefully, when it did, the court would recognize the terribly unconstitutional decision they made back in 1973," Olsen said.

House Republicans also passed House Bill 2441 on Tuesday. It bans abortion as soon as a fetal heartbeat can be detected. That can be as early as six weeks, when a person may not know they’re pregnant.

The bill allows exceptions for pregnancies deemed “medically futile” — a term it does not define — and when an abortion is necessary to save a woman’s life or prevent impairment to her health. Rep. Todd Russ’ (R-Cordell) bill does not offer an exception, however, in cases of rape or incest.

"In those situations where there is a horrible, horrible, heinous act of rape, taking the life of the baby does not help the emotional outcome of the mom. Generally, it makes it worse," Russ said.

Russ offered no evidence to support that claim.

HB2441 also contains a provision that would require providers of abortion care to tell their patients medication abortions, which require a dose of mifepristone followed by a dose of misoprostol, may be reversible if the second dose has not been taken.

In debate, Rep. Denise Brewer (D-Tulsa) pointed to an American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists report that says the claim medication abortion can be reversed is not based on science.

"That’s misinformation. That is telling clinics to lie to their patients," Brewer said.

Last week, House Republicans passed a bill to say only board-certified OB/GYNs can perform abortions. The Senate is considering several abortion restrictions of its own. None of the bills has advanced with a Democrat in support.

Pedro said their actions are all about politics, not health care, keeping women safe or protecting lives.

"If politicians really cared about those things, they … would be investing in sex ed programs; they would be trying to increase access to all types of health care, not restrict it; and they would be trusting women," Pedro said.

House Democrats have repeatedly brought up policies like comprehensive sex education as a way to reduce abortions in the state without restricting access, including Tuesday during discussion of HB1102. Olsen was asked whether he thought that could cut into Oklahoma’s teen pregnancy rate, the fourth-highest in the U.S.

"What we need to do to teach our young people – marriage between one man and one woman for life and that before you get married, you’re pure, and after you get married, you’re faithful. I believe this will greatly diminish the teen pregnancy rate," Olsen said.

A 2011 study found states with abstinence-only education had the highest teen pregnancy rates, while those that mentioned abstinence during the course of comprehensive sex education had the lowest rates.

Matt Trotter joined KWGS as a reporter in 2013. Before coming to Public Radio Tulsa, he was the investigative producer at KJRH. His freelance work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times and on MSNBC and CNN.
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